In recent years, much has been made of the value of participatory approaches for research with children, both within geography and beyond. I begin by providing an overview of participatory techniques and the ways in which they have been received, modified and put to use by geographers and researchers working in the ‘new social studies of childhood’. I suggest that the rationale for the use of these methods depends on claims about (i) their epistemological validity and (ii) their ethical merits.